Keeping Live Vocals Consistent with the F6 Dynamic EQ Plugin

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When a live singer sings at hugely different volumes or talks between songs—or when a speaker suddenly raises their voice—it can be hard to control the vocal and process it consistently.

In this video the live sound experts from MxU—Jeff Sandstrom, Lee Fields, and Andrew Stone—show how to use Waves’ F6 Dynamic EQ to keep the vocal consistent throughout the performance.

Sometimes just using regular EQ doesn't quite give you the results you need. You might have a different sound when a singer is singing really high in their range, so you cut out a bunch of upper mids, but then when they're talking between songs or singing low, you end up losing all of that presence you need.

There are tools we can use to help bridge that gap, so we're not being so destructive with our EQ. We can keep it musical and still get the results we need through other means, like more advanced compression and expansion techniques.

Waves F6 is a dynamic EQ that implements this idea of equalization with compression and expansion. Expansion is basically upwards compression: if compression is taking away level, expansion is adding level.

F6 is a six-band EQ with a low-pass and high-pass filter. Because it’s a dynamic EQ, we're able to pick a frequency, and we have a threshold just like on a compressor, and range which is similar to ratio: if we go into negative we're in compression, and if we go positive we're into expansion.

As the singer speaks into the mic, you can toggle input metering and threshold and find the specific frequency range you want to add level to or take away from. You can get relatively aggressive with it if needed, and also widen or narrow out the Q.

Let’s say you have a vocal where your singer is getting too harsh when they sing really loudly; it’s probably in that 4k range. So, we set the F6 to only compress the 4k range when they reach a certain level. When they’re loud there’s more gain reduction, but when they’re soft, it doesn’t really do much at all.

This can be extremely helpful in churches and other religious services. You might have a worship leader that regularly speaks and sings, but if you use a normal EQ to shape their voice, when they're singing it won’t sound right for their speaking. This is where a tool like F6 can really come into play because you can EQ their voice for talking as normal, and then you insert F6 for additional control over strident frequencies that only arise once they start singing.

It's just another tool to add to your chain. You may choose a channel strip EQ for basic tone shaping and then add this for surgery, or the other way around, depending on the source. Drums and vocals might be completely different; for vocals it could be compression, while the expansion option can suit drums. You can use a regular EQ for high-pass filtering and cutting some mud so that there's constant clarity. Once you’ve tone-shaped the vocal the way you want it, bring in the F6 dynamic EQ as an additive.

Learn more about MxU live sound services and coaching.

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